3 women, 3 mothers, 3 generations: 3 visions of motherhood and education. A special Mother’s Day story.

For Mother’s Day, we decided to share not one but three stories with you! Those of 3 women, 3 mothers, 3 generations. Madeleine, 82 years old, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Céline, 53 years old, her daughter and mother of Leslie, 31 years old. When we say that motherhood is a women’s story, here is the proof (smile). Especially since the newest member of the family is once again a girl. Her name is Rose and she is 2,5 years old. Due to the confinement, we spoke on the phone about their vision of motherhood and education. We asked them the same questions and their answers, without knowing it, are often similar despite the generation gap.

De gauche à droite: Leslie (31 ans), Rose (3 ans), Céline (53 ans), Madeleine (82 ans)

From left to right: Leslie (31 yo), Rose (2,5 yo), Céline (53 yo), Madeleine (82 yo)

What values did your mother pass on to you?

Grandmother – Madeleine: Respect and work ethic. I come from a family with 8 brothers and sisters. Our mother died of cancer when I was 13 years old and, being the second oldest, I had to “replace” her and take care of my siblings. 

Mother – Céline: Sense of responsibility, respect, love for family, and work. My mother took care of my sister and me full time until I was 13 years old. When she turned 40, she decided to go after her dream to open a restaurant and took her coffee shop license, despite our father’s reluctance. We worked there a lot during lunch breaks and holidays. I loved it!

Daughter – Leslie: Many, but I would say above all the values of family and independence. Knowing how to manage on your own and rely only on yourself.

What does your mother represent to you?

Mother – Céline: A pillar! We’ve always been fusional. When my father passed away in 2014, I realized, despite all my sadness, that I would be able to get through life without them. Subconsciously, I felt liberated, the cord was finally cut.

Daughter – Leslie: It’s a bit of a paradox but she is as much my hero as she is my dragon. She’s one of the people I love the most in the world and I admire her a lot. We have different characters and we often have conflicts. For example, my mother is anxious by nature and needs to be in control while I am more cool, always optimistic, and positive. My parents had opposite characters and I think I’m in between. My mother is Monica in Friends (laughs). She’s the kind of person who pays a bill when she gets it, whereas I’m more the kind of person who waits until the last day or until the first reminder (smile).

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Did she influence your approach to work ethic and love?

Mother – Céline: Work level yes! Like her, I am always 100% invested. Every morning, we get up and go, whether we are sick, sad, or tired. And when we start something, we go all the way to the end. On a sentimental level, however, no. Unlike me, she only had one husband (laughs). My father was loving but hot-tempered. My mother put up with a lot all her life which I could never do. But it’s a generational thing. For my mother, it would never have been possible to leave (your husband), whereas, for me, it was different I could not accept what was going on. We tried but it did not work out.

Daughter – Leslie: Regarding work ethic, yes, for sure! She taught me discipline. In love, on the contrary, I took a 180° turn to avoid being in the same situation as her and not to experience what she endured following my father’s cheating that caused their divorce. A tough period for her, even if she didn’t show it. She was really, very strong. I would never have reacted the way she did. Our values for love are very different. I think I resemble more my grandparent’s relationship, who were together for 52 years. Despite all their fights, there was respect and love. When things don’t work out, we talked, we work it out, we don’t leave. It’s obviously not always simple, but believing in love without waves is a utopia. Passion is ephemeral.

How did you manage your family and professional life at the same time? Do you think it’s easier today than it was in your mother’s time? 

Mother – Céline: My ex-husband is an architect and we had a company together. The offices were in our house so I was available for my children as well as for my work. No traveling to do, so I saved a lot of time. For the first few years, I worked mostly when Leslie was sleeping. Once she started school, it became even easier to balance everything. I was as much a stay-at-home mom as I was a working mom. It would have been unthinkable for me to stop working. I love it too much and I need it for my balance. My ex-husband was happy because I was always there when he needed me. Then we completely changed jobs. We took over the Café du Marché in Carouge together for 2 years. I loved it, but then I would finish late. I wasn’t at home as often, he couldn’t “control” me anymore and that was the beginning of the end between us. My mother wanted to be independent by opening her own restaurant at 40 and I did the same… 

I don’t think it’s any easier to reconcile the two now than it was in my time or my mother’s time. Mentalities and priorities are simply not the same. My mother started working at the age of 40, which is a bit of an exception.

Daughter – Leslie: My parents took care of me a lot, I never had a nanny. Since they worked from home it was easier. I am convinced that a child needs to be surrounded by as many people as possible from birth until the age of 10. Since Rose was born, she was my number one concern. I didn’t work for the first 18 months. To be honest, in the last six I couldn’t take it anymore. I missed work so much, at the end of the day it’s all about balance. I went back to work at 70% as an employee whereas before Rose I was self-employed. It lasted a year! I left at the beginning of the covid crisis to become self-employed again and use this period of confinement to launch my project. Now let’s see how it goes from a financial point of view. 

In my mother’s time, women were less career-minded. Many were stay-at-home moms before going back to work when the kids were older. I find that the parents of our generation are not helped. To financially cop up, both parents have to work. We will never be able to talk about equality until we find a viable solution around child care and until there is parental leave to be divided between the father and the mother. We are in a transitional phase.

In my grandmother’s day, women had no choice. They were forced to stay at home and often in bad marriages. I am all the more in admiration of my grandmother who managed to emancipate herself from my grandfather by standing up to him to open a restaurant at the age of 40. She proved that she existed as an individual and not as the wife of.

What was your mother’s parenting style? Did you (or will you) replicate the same with your daughter? 

Mother – Céline: My sister and I were brought up with tough parents (smile). My mom was bossy, strict but very loving. With Leslie’s father, we were always very relaxed/cool with our daughter. We explained everything to her. When we separated, Leslie was 13 years old. She was staying one week with her father and one week with me. I was cool but not as cool as him, so when Leslie came back home after a week, I would say to her, “At your dad’s house, you can do what you want, but here this is the way it is” (laughs)! Luckily, the divorce went well and we stayed on good terms.

Daughter – Leslie: I think I had a wonderful childhood and education. Despite different characters, my parents were on the same page. A caring education, without punishments or spankings. They took the time to explain things to me. A super positive upbringing that I’m trying to replicate with Rose. I talk to her a lot, encourage her and congratulate her. On the other hand, 0 tolerance for the rules of manners and politeness which are, in my opinion, essential. My husband’s parents were very strict and he suffered a lot as a result, he is delighted to do things differently with his daughter. Rose is a very sensitive little girl, very nice. The more you push and encourage her, the more she opens up. But I’m not sure when to be cool and when to be strict. Saying yes to everything clearly doesn’t do them any favors in the future. You have to try to find a middle ground.

Madeleine, with your daughters, what was your style of upbringing? What do you think of the education your daughter has given Leslie? 

Grandmother – Madeleine: Severe but fair. My husband and I tried never to contradict each other in front of them. If we did not agree, we would discuss it with each other first. We really tried to teach them the value of work. If they wanted something, they had to work for it. Besides, for the motorcycle they wanted so badly, they earned it by the sweat of their hands by spending hours working in the restaurant and babysitting (smile).

I have nothing to say about Leslie’s education. However, I regret my daughter’s divorce. Luckily, my daughter and her ex-husband get along well, but it’s something I can’t understand. In spite of everything, I supported my daughter.

What’s the best advice your mother ever gave you? 

Grandmother – Madeleine: Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Mother – Céline: Stay independent no matter what !

Daughter – Leslie: There are no problems, only solutions ! 

What do you think about your mother today ?

Mother – Céline: She is a kind, tender, and loving mother. 4 generations of daughters, the circle is closed.

Daughter – Leslie: I look at her with lots and lots of love and gratitude. I am proud to be her daughter.

Madeleine, what would you like to say today to your daughter and granddaughter?

Grandmother – Madeleine: That I love them with all my heart. They are the most beautiful thing in my life. They must realize that I am not eternal. We have to see each other now to have memories tomorrow.


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